Caught (up) in traffic
September 2017
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Melbourne airport departure

Here are some photos taken at Melbourne Airport when I traveled to Sydney to spend a few days there prior to returning to Manila.

Airport terminal driveway

One of many machines allowing for self check-in

Automated bag-drop allows one to weigh and check-in luggage. You have to put on the tags on your luggage yourself after they are printed out by the machine.

Fundraiser for seeing eye dogs

The way to the gates is lined with shops

Passengers checking the status of flights

The airport terminal doesn’t seem to be crowded (maybe only during the time I was there?) and you can easily get a seat near any of the cafes/restaurants at the terminal.

A look at the spacious area where passengers can have a meal or refreshment while waiting for their boarding times.

The escalators lead to the lower level where there are lounges and a path to the exits

At the lower level are more cafes and shops. I bought myself a pair of shades at the Sunglass Hut there.

There were already many passengers waiting at the gate when I arrived a few minutes before the boarding call.

Vending machines, a donation box for UNICEF and another one of those mother dog and puppy devices for donations for seeing eye dogs.

What if Ondoy happened today?

With the news of the devastation of Houston by Hurricane Harvey comes articles about transportation in that city. An interesting articles is this one:

Davies, A. (2017) “Hurricane Harvey Destroys Up to a Million Cars in Car-Dependent Houston“. Wired.com.  September 3, 2017. https://www.wired.com/story/harvey-houston-cars-ruined?mbid=nl_090317_daily&CNDID=%%CUST_ID%% (Last accessed 9/4/2017).

The article reminded me of a very personal experience back in 2009 when Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) submerged much of Metro Manila and its adjoining provinces in what was believed to be at least 100-year floods. Greater Metro Manila or Mega Manila is not too dependent on private cars for transportation with an estimated 70% of trips taking public transport (about 30% use private vehicles including motorcycles and taxis). Much of this public transportation, however, is road-based and so the floods did much to affect transportation in the area for the weeks after Ondoy. Car-owners rebounded quite quickly and car sales surged afterwards with many people purchasing SUVs in response to the likelihood of floods.

But what if Ondoy happened today? What if people were as unprepared as in 2009? Perhaps the damage would have been even greater than back in 2009. Mega Manila has become more dependent on cars since then with the current estimates of private vehicle mode shares at around 35%. The increase includes not only taxis and motorcycles, which have enjoyed steep increases in the past decade, but also ridesharing services (i.e., Uber and Grab).

Uber and Grab vehicles are predominantly comprised of vehicles purchased for the main purpose of being driven for income instead of the original concept of ridesharing where the vehicles are already owned and operated only during the free times of their owners (i.e., they provide services only on a part-time basis). Their proliferation and popularity means a lot more vehicles could have been damaged by Ondoy and that the owners of these vehicles likely would not have recovered from the loss even despite their auto insurance coverages.

Metro Manila and other Philippine cities under the threat of similar severe weather systems such as typhoons should build resilient transportation systems. Not surprisingly, among the more resilient modes of transport are non-motorized such as walking and cycling. Pedicabs where almost immediately back on service in Tacloban after Yolanda practically destroyed that city. But then again, an efficient public transport system is also necessary and buses and trains may provide relief from flooded cities. Maybe, a proposed subway system can also contribute if it includes the construction of subterranean drainage systems similar to that of Tokyo’s. These are not easy to develop or build with infrastructure costing much over the long term. However, Metro Manila needs to start building them now as these won’t get cheaper in the future.

Are ridesharing services paratransit modes?

Vuchic (Urban Transit Systems & Technology, 2007) defines paratransit as an “urban passenger transportation service mostly in vehicles operated on public streets and roads in mixed traffic; it is provided by private or public operators and it is available to certain groups of users or to the general public, but it is adaptable in its routing and scheduling to individual user’s desires in varying degrees.” 

Based on the definition and how paratransit modes have evolved over many years, then we could say that the current ridesharing or car sharing services like Uber and Grab are essentially paratransit modes. They definitely fit the definition as do conventional taxis.

Riding the bus in Sydney

We rode the bus twice in Sydney – first to get from the city to Bondi Beach and the second to go to a train station from Bondi Beach. I wasn’t really able to get a lot of photos inside the buses as they quickly filled with passengers and I wasn’t sure what people thought about someone taking photos inside a bus even for touristy purposes. It is usually better to blend in with the crowd than attract attention to yourself; though it probably didn’t matter much since there were so many Asians in Sydney and wherever we went.

You can use the Opal card to pay for your bus fare.

Buses are laid out to optimize the number of passengers it could carry. There are just enough seats for those who need to be seated. Others have to stand but standing space is important for commutes.

Ferry ride from Darling Harbor to Cockatoo Island

I had an opportunity to ride the ferries going around Sydney including some of the islands that were part of the attractions of the city. We rode a ferry from Darling Harbor to Cockatoo Island, which used to be for shipbuilding and repairs. It was also historically significant not just because of the ships that were built or repaired there but also because it was used as a correctional facility.

Information and fares – one can get detailed information on ferry services at the wharf and also purchase single trip or top up cards from the machines conveniently located in the area.

Information on the ferry services including the network and use of Opal cards to pay for your fares

One can use the Opal card to take ferry rides. You can top up (reload) at terminals at the wharf

The wharf where we were to await our ferry for Cockatoo Island

Sign showing which ferry lines dock at Wharf 1: F4 is for Circular Quay and F3 is for Parramatta, which includes a stop at Cockatoo Island.

The arrival of our ferry at the port

The cabin was practically empty when we boarded the ferry.

A better look at the spacious cabin

Advisory for all passengers

Ferry layout and safety plan

A view of the bridge and showing the name of the ferry. We discovered that each ferry was named after a prominent female sports figure.

Our ferry ride to Cockatoo Island afforded us splendid views of the waterfront properties and landmarks. The ferry also had few passengers so we could go around the boat to have an appreciation of the sights as well as the vessel itself. I will post some photos of the views from the ferry in a future article.

Melbourne taxi rides

I took taxis between the airport and the serviced apartment where I stayed at in Melbourne. Both rides were uneventful ones and I enjoyed the good service provided. Uber is also available but Melbourne taxis appear to be providing an obviously higher quality of service compared to what you can get in Metro Manila.

The following photo shows a couple of stickers that inform the passenger(s) about standard fares and the applicable tolls should the taxis use tollways and therefore incur additional costs.

One can pay cash or opt to use a debit or credit card to pay for taxi fares. And you can get a receipt that you can use to account for your transport expenses. That is, the receipt is useful for reimbursements.

For both my rides, I didn’t encounter any unruly taxi drivers. One was a bit chatty but I enjoyed the conversations about life in general. I learned that he was originally from Somalia and had a son studying in university. He said he was very happy with his life in Australia and was thankful of his job that enabled him to support his family including being able to afford to send his children to schools. I guess he is one of the lucky immigrants there and his hard work paid off in this country where the environment generally rewards hardworking people with much opportunities to improve their lot.

Taxi operators and drivers in Metro Manila should learn about what good service is all about from taxis abroad. Perhaps they can pick up a good thing or two for how they can improve services and thereby reducing if nor eliminating  the bad impressions people generally have about them that have led to ridesharing services to become quite popular. A significant improvement in taxi services can be rewarding in terms of ridership or patronage.

Marcos Highway-Felix Avenue-Gil Fernando Avenue pedestrian overpass

Here’s are some photos of the pedestrian overpass structure at the intersection of Marcos Highway, F. Felix Avenue (formerly Imelda Avenue) and Gil Fernando Avenue (formerly A. Tuazon Avenue).

Here’s a view of Marcos Highway and the elevated Line 2 Extension from the structure crossing Felix Avenue between Soliven/Tropical and Sta. Lucia. Also shown is the overpass crossing Marcos Highway.

View towards Sta. Lucia and Robinsons Metro East

Stairs to Sta. Lucia – notice the gap in the railings along the elevated Line 2 superstructure? That is where the Emerald Station will be constructed.